by Kevin Dicciani
On Saturday afternoon, May 30, at the Unitarian Society of Germantown, Bart Miltenberger, of Glenside, will host a special concert – “An Act of Sara”– to honor the memory of his late wife, Sara Goldschneider, who died from leukemia this past January at the age of 40.
The concert will feature five well-established kid bands – with members ranging from 13 to 18 years-old – including Miltenberger’s son Julian and his band, Dog Event. There will also be a DJ and three emcees – teenagers as well.
All of the proceeds of the event will go to the Breathing Room Foundation, an organization based in Jenkintown that aims to provide care and support to local families affected by cancer. Miltenberger chose the foundation since it was integral in helping him and Sara over the course of her five-year-plus struggle with cancer.
Sara, an ESL teacher and mother of three sons – Julian, Miles and Gabriel – was diagnosed with leukemia five and a half years ago. After six months of chemotherapy and then going into to remission for two years, Sara’s cancer came back. Unable to return to the same previous treatments, she was left to undergo a bone marrow transplant, which the doctors told both her and Miltenberger was the most dangerous medical procedure a human being can go through.
Despite the risk and pain that comes along with the procedure, Sara made it through. She spent the next two years with static health, albeit with a drastically decreased blood count, low energy and graft-versus-host disease – a complication that occurs after a stem cell or bone marrow transplant wherein the newly transplanted donor cells attack the recipient’s body. But, by using a variety of medications, and with her family alongside her for every step of the way, Sara’s health was able to improve.
Around this past holiday season, though, Sara’s cancer mutated, and Miltenberger said there wasn’t anything the doctors could do. Within 24 hours, he said, her health went from being “not so bad” to rapidly deteriorating and life-consuming. Sara died January 14.
The title of the concert, “An Act of Sara,” came from a reflection Miltenberger gave of Sara at her memorial service. Towards the end, he mentioned the difficulty, isolation and confusion that comes along with the sudden death of a loved one, and how at times it can seem there isn’t any sense to be made from it at all. But, he said, if there is something to come from it, Sara would want it to be positive. At one point, the phrase “a random act of kindness” came to mind, which caused Miltenberger to contemplate involving himself and others in deeds of good will, all in the name of Sara, as an “Act of Sara.”
The phrase resonated with Miltenberger’s friend, Christopher Plant, an Elfant Wissahickon Realtor. Plant and Miltenberger, who is associate director of institutional advancement at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice, had previously discussed organizing a kid band concert in Northwest Philadelphia, but now, to actualize the random acts of kindness, they decided the concert would be a tribute to Sara.
“I wanted to do something to bring people together, foster connections and generate good intentions in her name,” Plant said. “I think this concert will do just that and celebrate Sara, Bart and their children in a spirit of positivity.”
Sara played the piano, Miltenberger plays the trumpet, and all three of their sons are musicians. The idea for the concert, then, was a natural and fitting way to honor Sara’s memory.
“Music is a super-important part of our family and our household,” Miltenberger said. “Sarah really supported and believed in private lessons for the kids, and she’s always been fiercely proud and supportive of her children, so this concert would have been right up her alley.”
For the concert lineup, Plant and Miltenberger put together a venue of kid bands – not ones that have come together solely for the sake of the concert, but actual working bands that travel and are paid to perform. The bands specialize in rock n’ roll and its variations – progressive, indie, ambient, etc. – and all of the kids hail from the Philadelphia area.
“Some of these kids are really, really talented,” Miltenberger said. “If people are going and expecting to hear kids who are just learning their instruments, I think they’re going to be pretty surprised by the level of musicianship, talent and professionalism.”
To raise money for the concert, so that all the costs made from ticket sales can go directly to the Breathing Room Foundation, Plant and Miltenberger turned to GoFundMe. So far they have reached over $2,000, aspiring to raise a total of $3,000. With Miltenberger expecting 300 people to attend and tickets at $10 apiece, he is hoping to come extremely close to that number.
“We want to make a substantial contribution to the Breathing Room Foundation,” he said.
Miltenberger said he wants the concert to be by kids and for kids, as there is often not enough opportunities for them to come together and simply be creative. And to accomplish that in the right environment, for a good cause, and in Sara’s memory – that’s all he could possibly ask.
“We want this to be a positive thing, built around kids and built around music, and it’s for a good cause,” he said. “We want people to have a fun, safe and good time.”
The concert, from 3-9 p.m. Saturday, May 30, will be on the grounds of the Unitarian Society of Germantown. Food will be provided by Goat Hollow, a Mt. Airy restaurant. If there is inclement weather, the concert will move indoors.
For more information or to donate to “An Act of Sara,” visit www.gofundme.com/uuud5a8.